Oh, The Places You’ll Go

paris postcardIt’s the ultimate global adventure that ends with custom postcards in your very own mailbox! We made classic blue mailboxes, then visited locations around the globe to create postcards to send home. And don’t forget the stamp!

We read Will Goes the the Post Office by Olof and Lena Landstrom, translated by Elisabeth Dyddegaard (R&S Books, 1994). Will is excited when the post office notifies him of a package that’s arrived from his Uncle Ben. At the post office, he discovers that the package is GIGANTIC! What could it be? With a little help from Karen, Peter, John and Susan, Will and the gang carry the package home and eagerly unwrap it. At first, it seems like the box is just full of paper…but then they discover a fantastic globe packed inside! And the globe lights up! The five children (and Mama) pile in the closet to see Will’s new globe lamp shine.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small tissue box
  • 1 box cutter
  • Blue construction paper
  • Blue poster board
  • 1 mailbox signs template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A selection of
  • 4 foam beads
  • 1 small piece of drinking straw (ours was 1.5″ long)
  • A blank postcards template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Print-outs of different locations around the globe
  • Small stickers
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

This project was created by Katie, and I have to say, the kids absolutely LOVED it. I mean, who wouldn’t love this cute little mailbox? The round top! The feet! The door at the bottom!

completed mailboxTo make a mailbox, cut the top off a small tissue box. Use a box cutter to cut a little door at the bottom of the box. The postcards are 3″ wide, so make sure your door is 3″ or wider.

mailbox step1Wrap the box with blue construction paper, then use the box cutter (or scissors) to re-establish the little door.

mailbox step 2The rounded sides of the mailbox are 2 pieces of blue poster board (ours were approximately 4.25″ wide, and 3.25″ tall). Secure them in place with tape.

mailbox step 3To make the top of the mailbox, cut a 3.5″ mail slot in the center of a 4.5″ x 9″ rectangle of blue poster board. Gently curl the poster board over the rounded sides of the mailbox, then tape in place. The curling and taping is definitely the toughest part of the project. Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be perfect!

mailbox step 4Next, use colored masking tape to reinforce the edges of the mailbox, and to decorate it. Color and cut the mailbox signs from the template and tape (or hot glue) in place.

completed mailboxFinish by hot gluing 4 foam bead “feet” to the bottom of the box, and a small piece of drinking straw to the front of the little door. Your mailbox is done – grab it and get ready to travel!

a postwoman

Katie printed up photos of different places (thank you, Google image search!), and taped them up around the gallery. Katie wrote the names of the locations or landmarks, as well as the country, on the photos as well. Underneath each photo was a basket of color pencils.

taj mahal postcard

We invited kids to grab 6-8 blank postcards and visit different locations, sketching what they saw in the photos on their postcards. Here’s someone visiting London, England:

england postcard

And another traveler enjoying the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt:

egypt postcard

Ready to see some postcards from around the world?

grand canyon postcard

pisa postcardstonehengepostcardmaroon bells postcard

beach postcardWe even got postcards from places we didn’t include! Here’s a postcard from the Amazon, even though it wasn’t one of our photo locations. I think that’s a person on top of a giant tree with a ladder? Cool.

amazon postcardTo make the postcard activity official, Miss Melinda donned a stamp-selling visor and circulated the gallery, “selling” stamps that were actually cute little stickers.

melinda the stamp seller

Melinda joined us this fall – she’s a Cotsen volunteer who works at the Princeton Writing Program. I went easy on her the first couple weeks, but slowly, inevitably, Melinda will be drawn into the vortex of ridiculous story time tasks. Today, a visor-wearing stamp seller. Tomorrow, a giant paper cookie!

Order Up!

order-upGet your piping hot hamburger, crispy crinkle fries, and ice cold soda served over the counter of this awesome 1950s diner! The cook is taking orders, and our fun matching game insures that your customers will get exactly what they like.

We read Hamburger Heaven by Wong Herbert Yee (Houghton Mifflin, 1999).
Every Friday after school, Pinky Pig works at Hamburger Heaven. She’s saving for a new clarinet. But slow business means that Pinky might soon be out of a job! Instead of despairing, she gets to work, asking different animals what they like to eat. She puts together a new menu and then papers the town with ads for Hamburger Heaven’s new offerings. That Friday, a huge line of customers is waiting to try burgers with pine needles, burgers with worms, burgers with beetles, burger with slugs, snails, stinkbugs, crickets…there’s something for everyone! Hamburger Heaven is back in business, and Pinky’s clarinet dream becomes a joyful reality.

You’ll need:

  • 3 paper bags
  • 3 small plastic cups (ours were 5oz)
  • Brown, yellow, and orange tissue paper
  • 2 drinking straws
  • 3 pieces of white card stock (approximately 4.25″ x 5.75″)
  • 3 jumbo craft sticks (mine were 8″ long)
  • Brown, green, orange, red, and tan construction paper
  • A 1950s diner (more on this later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

diner-food-setThis project consists of 3 paper bags, 3 sodas, 3 sets of fries, 3 burgers, and 3 “customer cards.” First, cut the paper bags down to 7″, then decorate the fronts with your restaurant’s logo. To make the soda, squish three, 9″ x 13″ pieces of tissue paper into 3 small plastic cups. Add a half of a drinking straw to each cup (our straws were 4′ long). For the fries, accordion fold 1″ x 3″ pieces of yellow construction paper. We’ll get to the burgers in just a moment.

In addition to the play food, this project is also a game in which you match individualized burgers to pictures of your customers. To make the “customer cards,” draw 3 creatures on 3 pieces of white card stock. Then tape each “customer card” to a jumbo craft stick, like so…

crab-customer-cardNow for the matching burger! Each burger consists of 6 pieces of construction paper: 2 brown buns, 1 slice of cheese, 1 lettuce leaf, 1 tan burger patty, and 1 tomato slice. Since you’re making 3 burgers, you’ll need 3 sets of those 6 pieces.

six-burger-piecesTo customize the 3 burger patties, draw what each creature eats on a patty. For example, one of our creatures is a crab. Among other things, crabs eat fish parts and algae. So we drew them on the burger patty (here’s a creature diet information sheet we posted during story time to help kids).

customer-card-and-burgerUse tape loops to stack and secure your burgers (just make sure you can lift the bun a little and see what you drew on the burger patty). We used a brown marker to add some “sesame seeds” on the top of the bun as well. Grab your food, and your customer cards, and head for the diner!

front-of-dinerThis diner is Marissa in all her awesomeness. The front is a recycled box lid (first used for this ice skating story time). The diner door is a recycled box lid. The whole thing is covered with silver metallic poster board. Just look at her fantastic metal corrugations on the front! The vintage “Open” sign on a string! The oval door with diagonal push bars! This has to be one of my favorite Marissa creations (after the pig marching band of course).

Here’s what the diner looks like from the back. In the box on the left you can see the crinkle fries loaded into the “fry basket.” We prepped the fries in advance, refilling the fry basket, as needed, during the matching game.

back-of-dinerIf you don’t have time to make a diner, no worries. Use a tabletop, small desk, or even an overturned box! However, I do recommend including a counter bell (in the past, I’ve borrowed the bell from the library’s circulation desk). Since our bell was going to get repeatedly slammed by kids, I taped it to the counter. You might want to do the same.

Here’s how to play the matching game. Kids gave their grown-ups (or siblings) the 3 customer cards. Then they sat behind the diner counter, food at the ready. One by one, the customers “walked” up to the counter.

lion-customer-cardKids matched the customer to the appropriate burger, took a drink order (we offered cola, lemonade, or orange pop), and grabbed a generous serving of crinkle fries.

adding-crinkle-friesThey bagged everything, briskly dinged the bell, and shouted “Order up!” Once that customer had left, it was on to the next customer until every creature had been matched to a burger. Did we have fun? Oh yeah! In fact, we left the diner up for 20 minutes after story time for repeat customers. There was lots of enthusiastic bell dinging and BIG smiles!

smiling-cookWant to supersize that? Check out these giant burger relay races at our Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs story time!

I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost

i-aint-afraid-of-no-ghostBoldly enter a haunted house armed with your wits and your handy Haunted House Preparedness Kit! Trap a spider, catch a mouse with some cheese, deter a ghost with ghost spray, and use your skeleton key to exit through a secret door. There’s nothing you can’t handle!

We read I’m Not Afraid of this Haunted House, written by Laurie Friedman, and illustrated by Teresa Murfin (Carolrhoda Books, 2005). Simon Lester Henry Strauss is not afraid of a haunted house, no matter what it throws at him. Witches, ghosts, vampires, ghouls, werewolves, goblins, graveyards, Frankenstein (and bride), one-eyed monsters…nothing can phase our hero. Except, perhaps, a little mouse!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 1 set of haunted house kit labels template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 strip of white poster board (approximately 1.75″ x 16″)
  • 1 haunted house kit contents template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 clear plastic cup
  • 1 circle of tagboard or poster board to fit the mouth of the cup
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • 1 jumbo pom-pom
  • 1 small square of self-adhesive foam (approximately 0.5″ x 0.5″)
  • 1 button magnet
  • 1 wooden bead
  • 1 wiggle eye
  • 2 black pipe cleaners
  • 3 facial tissues
  • 1 long piece of string or yarn (approximately 24″ long)
  • 1 jumbo paper clip
  • 1 haunted house (more on this later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Below are the contents of the Haunted House Preparedness Kit. From left to right is a spider collection jar, a skeleton key, a piece of cheese, and a can of ghost spray.

haunted-house-kit

First, the box! Color, cut, and attach the 2 front and back labels from the template. Next, use markers to decorate a strip of white poster board. Tab both ends of the strip inwards about 1″, then tape the tabs to the underside of the box lid. If you’re using a tissue box, just cut the top off the box and attach the poster board handle to the sides of the box.

The spider collection jar is a clear plastic cup flipped upside down. We used a 9oz “cocktail” cup because it has a nice wide mouth. Using a single piece of tape like a hinge, attach a circle of tagboard to the mouth of the cup. Make sure you don’t entirely attach the circle – you’ll need to open the jar later to stick your spider inside it.

The skeleton key and the ghost spray label are on kit contents template. Color the ghost spray label, and then wrap it around a toilet paper tube. To make the aerosol top of the can, hot glue a jumbo pom-pom to the inside of the tube, then peel and stick a square of self-adhesive foam on top.

ghost-sprayThe final item in the kit is a piece of cheese, which we made out of yellow card stock.  Draw holes on the cheese with black marker and hot glue a button magnet to its tip.

magnet-cheeseThe next round of items are the things you’ll be catching inside the haunted house – a spider, a ghost, and a mouse. First, the spider. Color a wooden bead with black marker and hot glue a wiggle eye on the front. Cut 2 pipe cleaners in half, then thread the 4 pieces through the hole in the bead. Bend the pipe cleaners to create wiggly spider legs.

spider-steps-1-and-2To make the ghost, wad up a facial tissue and fold 2 facial tissues over the wad. Tie the end of a 24″ string around the wad to create the neck of the ghost. Make sure to leave plenty of string free to dangle your ghost later! Use a maker to add eyes and a mouth.

tissue-ghostFinally, color and cut the mouse from the template. Tape a jumbo paper clip to the underside of its mouth. Later, this paperclip will attach to the magnet on the cheese.

mouse-and-cheeseThat’s everything you need for your adventures in the haunted house…now you just need the house! It doesn’t have to be fancy. Drape some sheets over the shelves in your stacks, or drape a tablecloth over a table and have kids crawl under it. But if you have a giant box,  2 smaller boxes, and a black light handy, go for it! Here’s the front of out house (plus a photobomb by Marissa).

front-of-haunted-houseI love the lanterns by the door. They’re LED candles inside plastic cups, which are attached to the box with black poster board. There’s a little poster board flourish hot glued to the bottom of the cup too.

lantern-detailHere’s a shot of the house’s interior, as seen from the front door. There are LED wall sconces, a mirror, a bookcase, old-fashioned portraits, a clock, and a fireplace that leads to the black light room. And there were also 4 activities for the kids…coaxing a mouse out of the mouse hole, catching a spider, spraying a ghost with “Bye-Bye Boo” spray, and using a skeleton key to exit through a secret door.

interior-of-haunted-house

You got a peek of the black light room last week on our Instagram. This  room is Marissa’s masterpiece. She used glow-in-the-dark squeeze glue and black light Sharpie markers to highlight everything. We cut a little door in the side of the room so we could quickly slip the kids’ spiders inside.

black-light-spider-roomAt the very back of the house was a secret door, which was covered with tagboard strips made to look like wooden planks. The interior of the secret door box with lined with gray felt. To give it an underground kind of feel, I used a thick black marker to draw outlines of stones on the felt.

secret-doorHere’s a shot of the haunted house from the right side. Everything was was held together with lots of hot glue and packing tape.

right-side-of-haunted-houseThe left side of the house had the mouse hole, which we covered with black felt to keep light from leaking in. My kids did all the exterior decoration. Like the dead flower garden on the lower right?

left-side-of-haunted-houseSo! Here’s how it went! Kids lined up outside the house. When it was their turn, they handed us their spiders, mice, and ghosts. Then they entered the house with their kits.

waiting-to-get-inOnce inside, they listened for the mouse squeaking in the mouse hole (this was literally Marissa saying “Squeak squeak!” and wiggling the nose of the mouse outside the hole). Kids stuck the magnet end of the cheese into hole and “caught” the mouse. Into the kit it went!

catching-a-mouseNext, kids reached into the black light room, grabbed their spider, and put it in their collection jar. By this time, I had opened the trap door in the roof and dangled their wailing ghost in (I followed Marissa’s lead, enthusiastically saying “Wooo wooo!”). The kids doused the ghost with a ghost spray, causing it to drop to the floor of the house. Into the kit the ghost went.

dangling-ghostThe final task was for kids to shimmy into the secret room and use the skeleton key to unlock the door. We wouldn’t lift the door until we saw a key in the key hole!

skeleton-key-unlocksKids could go through the house as many times as they wanted, and we kept story time going 20 minutes past our end time to accommodate repeat explorations. It was…wait for it…a total scream! Awwww.

Did you notice the old-fashioned portraits in the kid catching mouse image? I have to give Marissa a shout out for her mad drawing skills here. She drew us! In Victorian clothing! I love my hat.

portraits-of-dana-and-marissaThe portraits are a nod to the day we spent sipping Victorian tea at this program. Fun!